We are embarking on our eighth week here in Kosovo! Time is flying and as a consequence Abby and I are attempting to fit a major travel schedule in our last weekends in the Balkans. From the recommendation of a former EULEX judge, whom is currently in the States enjoying family time in Iowa, I decided that traveling to Turkey was an actual, feasible idea. Istanbul has never been a place that has been on my bucket list, mostly because it was a place that never seemed like a plausible area to visit. But you live and you learn, and on June 27th I found myself on an evening flight to Istanbul, courtesy Turkish Flights. Abby and I met another international intern, and in fact another Section Ten member, in the airport of Istanbul and together we travelled by shuttle to our hostel. The next day we woke up and took the city by storm! We had an ambitious list of places to see and things to do in our less than 48 hours in the city and without Luli's friend's help we would have never accomplished as much as we did! Shout out to Jose for being the best tour guide we have ever had.
The "List" consisted of: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Tokapi Palace, Taksim Square, Galata Tower, the archaeological museum, visit the Asian side, eat Balkava, and visit the Grand Bazaar. It may seem easy on its face, but we were sprinting through the city to get everything accomplished! Ambria and Abby were gracious enough to visit the archaeology museum with me- and I have to say that it was impressive. My inner archaeologist definitely had a "field day", and it was probably the best early birthday present that I could have asked for. The museum is huge with different buildings holding all the artifacts that have been brought back to Turkey, they have several mummies and too many sarcophagus to count. Below is a picture of the sarcophagus that was incredibly ornate. It may or may not be a double tomb- there was no placard to confirm my suspicions.
We came back to Prishtina on Sunday and the next I turned twenty four. To celebrate our friends met us at Princesa Gresa for a birthday dinner! We had a ton of fun and the food portions were out of control. That is one thing that you can always count on in Kosovo, you will never go hungry at restaurants. One of my friends brought me a replica of the Newborn monument, and it is so classy that wherever I end up as a lawyer it will be displayed prominently on my desk/cubicle. As dinner wrapped up our friends Joe and Nico serenaded me with Taylor Swift's "Our Song"- I felt that the entire restaraunt was being entertained at that point but the rendition of Swift's first big hit will forever live in my memory as the "moment" of my twenty fourth year!
This last week at work I have been working on a summary article of my extradition memo for possible publication on the Fair Trials International website. Anton presented the project to me the week before my birthday but was gracious in allowing me to start it after the birthday celebrations had wrapped up. He told me that all I needed to do was sum up my extradition memo in article form, but I remained wary of the assignment. Our writing professors are the bee's knees at William & Mary, especially my professor who accomplished her goal of making everyone in my section efficient legal writers. This capability of being a legal writer comes at a price though, because when I sat down to write the article I had the moment of wondering if I could even academically write anymore!
I have been incredibly blessed in having a very supportive manager in Anton- and this time around with the article assignment I have benefitted from his patience. My first article was scrapped because the scope was not wide enough, the article needed to focus on the broader idea of Kosovo sovereignty, not just the extradition issue within the country. I went back to square one and rebuilt the article focusing on Kosovo sovereignty and using my memo on extradition as the example of the different methods that countries deploy against Kosovo. Anton also asked me to add a Balkan example- so we chose a mass murder that had occurred within Macedonia. The two perpetrators of this crime that the media dubbed the "Monster" murder had fled Macedonia to Kosovo. They were eventually arrested in Kosovo for the separate crime of illegal gun trafficking and currently the two countries are negotiating the release and extradition of the perpetrators to Macedonia to stand trial. Macedonia and Kosovo have a formal extradition agreement, neither of the countries benefit from the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system. Because there is a formal extradition agreement in place Kosovo could resist the Macedonian request for extradition under the idea that they want to prosecute the two perpetrators for the crimes they committed within the Kosovo borders. The same could feasibly happen under the EAW system, but the entire EAW system was set up to process requests on a purely judicial perspective. The EAW was set up to cut the political process around extradition requests and should serve to raise the accountability level of the European Union as a whole. As it currently stands the Kosovo authorities are still processing the Macedonian extradition request. One has to hope that Kosovo will weigh the seriousness of the crimes committed and find a way to moderate a middle ground so that both countries can access justice. My second draft of the article is currently with Anton and awaiting comments, hopefully the next blog will have a solid future for this little publication on the Fair Trials International website.
Also this week Anton and I talked about the fate of Roma children in the current school system of Kosovo. It has recently come to light at CLARD that Roma children are facing segregation within their schools that resembles the Jim Crow era of the United States. Students are separated by ethnicity within the school systems and the recent observations and studies have produced statistics that showcase just how severely the Roma children are being affected by the segregation tactics. Literacy rates are incredibly low and reports of school violence between students has increased. We have a friend that is interning with UNICEF and she confirmed everything that I talked about with Anton. After this eye opening conversation it really hit home how much a bubble Prishtina culture is. I have said it before but it bears repeating, because of the international influence within Prishtina the gap between Prishtina culture and all the other cities seems to widen with every passing day. The top down approach that is being employed here is eroding the entire country and as Prishtina continues to pull away in their international attention the rest of the country will fall further behind in implementing rule of law and a culture of tolerance. Another topic that Anton and I covered was the problem of government sponsored legal aid within the country. Right now the government legal aid employs twenty attorneys and takes on about 1,000 cases a year. Their budget is about four times that of CLARD but the government has recently announced their plan to shut down the legal clinics outside of Prishtina. According to Anton, CLARD trained the attorneys within the legal aid agency. To add insult to injury CLARD operates with four attorneys and two legal assistants and takes on about 1,200 cases per year. As demonstrated above there is something significantly wrong going on within the government sponsored legal aid agency- with bigger budget and more employees it logically follows that they should be taking on more cases and operating their legal aid clinics without fear of budgetary cuts. It is a conundrum- and I am personally hoping that it turns out to be a rumor that will not come to fruition. To shut down legal aid clinics will just add to the apathy that is so pervasive within the country. It will be another negative event that will reinforce to the people that the government is not functioning and will incite even more discontent with the entire system.
But on to other topics, like 4th of July within Kosovo!
I was a little morose over the fact that I would not be in the States for the 4th of July. It is one of my favorite holidays and my family has very specific rituals that we adhere to- mainly we set off a lot of fireworks. But then I realized that being in Kosovo around this holiday was going to be great! Kosovars love the 4th of July about as much as Americans do. It is another cross over product from the NATO bombing and the Clinton administration involvement within the country. One of the native interns at work told me that the city of Prishtina holds a free outdoor concert and that the streets are awash with masses of people sporting their American pride.
Ironically, Abby and I ended up in Greece over 4th of July. Just another stop on the whirlwind Balkan travel extravaganza! Greece was gorgeous and where there were no fireworks, there were fantastic beaches. Our little travel trio mastered the mountainous roads of the Pelion region and even found a beach where part of the Mamma Mia movie starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried was shot. I still have not adjusted to ocean swimming, the salt water gets me every time! But it is worth it to be in such amazing water, just look at the color!
And on an end note for the travel notes- Abby and I spent exactly forty minutes on the continent of Asia when we were in Istanbul. Where there was no significant visual change to the scenery the knowledge that we spanned two continents in such a short time was great!
Side note to the travel side note- which I feel that everyone should know because it is just so strange- the metro stations within Istanbul are literally in the center of the Earth. Jose warned us that we were going to take several escalators into the bowels of the world before we entered on to the actual subway. Abby and I thought he meant three escalators at the most. But no, there were five escalators down. The last one was steep, I have never felt like I was looking at people sideways on an escalator before but it definitely happened as we were traveling down the last one. Below are my cohorts signaling the final escalator that we went down.